Boehringer Ingelheim
24 January 2018
Jacqueline Berlin

Chicken or egg?

Dr. Hans-Christian Philipp is a poultry vaccine researcher at the Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Research Center (BIVRC), our animal vaccine facility in Hanover. The BIVRC is licensed for research into porcine, cattle, and poultry vaccines. This is a new field for Boehringer Ingelheim in Hanover, and the institute needs passionate people whose interests go way beyond the age-old debate about chicken and egg. People like Dr. Hans-Christian Philipp. A guest contribution by Kathrin Wolsiffer.

My first thought as I enter Dr. Hans-Christian Philipp’s office: the egg came first. My eye is immediately drawn to a poster depicting the development from egg to chick. “Eggs are an important raw material in the pharmaceutical industry because viruses are produced in eggs. They play an important role in manufacturing poultry vaccines,” explains Philipp. A skilled veterinarian, Philipp has been at Boehringer Ingelheim for the past two years, having previously worked in the poultry industry for 20 years. “You don’t become a veterinarian to produce poultry – it’s just something you stumble upon,” he says casually. He explains that his doctorate involved work with viruses, and that he eventually specialized in poultry. When he worked in the industry, he was, “the pharma industry’s egg producer.”


Poultry vaccines are nothing new for the company. With its facility in Guadalajara, Mexico, Boehringer Ingelheim has already entered this market. “In the future, we’d like to bring our existing expertise to bear in Europe,” continues Philipp. The BIVRC represents a first major step in this direction. At some point, a production site will also need to be established in Europe, manufacturing the vaccines that are researched and developed in Hanover. “Vaccines are needed due to the continuing growth of the poultry sector.”


The research


The Hanover facility began researching poultry vaccines some three years ago. Technically speaking, this coincided with the opening of the facility in the fall of 2012. “We will soon be able to start developing the first candidates from our research,” says Philipp happily. There is also extremely positive collaboration with the nearby Hanover Veterinary School, and this will ideally be further strengthened going forwards.


He believes that many people do not realize that poultry are actually prone to a range of infectious diseases. “This species is vaccinated against at least five diseases. If chickens had vaccination certificates, they’d be the same as human ones.” Philipp knows about such things – and not without reason: “I used to raise chickens as a child,” he laughs, noting that the hens have now made way for a horse, a dog and three rabbits, in addition to his own two children.


Developing a vaccine


Dr. Philipp then takes me on a tour of the lab. This is where his daily work takes place. How do you research this sort of vaccine and what is the initial starting point? “Obviously, a livestock farmer has to be experiencing difficulties with an infectious disease before we can start to think about researching a vaccine,” says Philipp. The pathogen must then be identified: where is it, how widespread is it, what does it do to the animal? “The problem that we encounter here is that pathogens change rapidly. This means that we need to be extremely cautious to only use current pathogens in our research.”


He explains that for researchers to really get started, there needs to be a way to work with the pathogen in the laboratory: “You need to be able to grow it, you need antibodies against it, you need to understand how it behaves, and know how to control it effectively.” A vitally important next step is to test whether it is cost effective to manufacture the vaccine. Where this is not the case, that may well signal the end of the research project. “Our vaccine needs to be affordable for farmers,” says the researcher. If a candidate vaccine is eventually created, the employees then take on the development of the project.

"In the future, we’d like to bring our existing expertise to bear in Europe, says Hans-Christian Philipp. "
Jacqueline Berlin
Dr. Hans-Christian Philipp_Boehringer Ingelheim
Dr. Hans-Christian Philipp is a poultry vaccine researcher at the Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Research Center (BIVRC), our animal vaccine facility in Hanover.

1 Kommentar(e) für 'Chicken or egg?'


Great story! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

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